Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Road to Reserves - Radio Procedures, Patrol Tactics 1, & Range 5

This week brought a lesson about the value of resiliency and positive thinking. It also inspired me to start practicing the phonetic alphabet while driving around in traffic!

Radio Procedures

Many law enforcement professionals agree their radio is one of the most important tools they carry. This device is a lifeline of communication, information, and assistance if a peace officer’s safety is threatened.

A former WCSO reserve deputy, who was later hired as a regular full-time deputy, presented an introduction to radio practices. This was one of those classes where the phrase “drinking from a fire hose” comes to mind. We have a lot of information to memorize and will need to get used to simultaneously hearing, understanding, and responding to messages from various sources once we hit the road.

We covered three key things to remember as radio operators. First, think before you transmit. It’s just like practicing in the mirror before giving a big speech – this will help us deliver a message that is clear and concise.

Second, airtime is precious. As a Washington County reserve deputy, I will be sharing radio channels with many other on duty individuals. Only one deputy may speak at a time on any given channel, so we must focus on keeping our messages short and necessary.
Finally, always be professional. We have an obligation to treat one another with patience and respect on the radio, just as we do when speaking in person. This includes speaking to dispatchers, with whom we have little face-to-face contact.

Each agency has a directory of radio channels accessible to their staff. A radio can be set to any zone between A and J. A channel knob can then be set to any number between 1 and 16. This results in a total of 160 different channels (i.e. A8, E2, J6, etc.). Using the map of channels, peace officers can communicate with others from their agency or other local agencies, depending on the situation.

Another common use of the radio is to contact dispatch and ask them to look up an individual or a vehicle. Since some words and letters may be difficult to understand over the radio, we need to learn a commonly accepted phonetic alphabet. “Charlie” and “Zebra” are easier to audibly differentiate than “C” and “Z.”

CAD (computer-aided dispatch) is another integral part of our communication system. We can access this computer program on our MDTs (mobile data terminals), which are the laptops in our patrol cars. This resource allows us to accomplish tasks manually without taking up radio airtime. This can include adding ourselves on calls, checking the call history on a location or communicating with other deputies.

Patrol Tactics 1

In preparation for some realistic exercises in the coming week, our first patrol tactics class included a great deal of review regarding search and seizure. Fully comprehending our Fourth Amendment legal authority to search suspects and their property, and to seize any evidence we may find, when warranted, will be central to our daily operations as peace officers.

We also reviewed the difference between mere conversation and a stop. Mere conversation is a legal term for a consensual encounter between a member of the public and a peace officer. The officer has no legal authority to stop the individual, but the two may converse for as long as the civilian continues to consent.

A stop, on the other hand, is made when a peace officer witnesses an individual commit a violation or a crime. This gives the officer the legal authority to detain the person for as long as reasonably necessary to investigate the incident and obtain the person’s identity.

Differentiating between these two concepts and knowing how to lawfully proceed in both situations will help us ensure we do not violate anyone’s Constitutional rights in the performance of our duties.

I anticipate our upcoming exercises will be valuable, as we will have the chance to run through different situations with a partner and determine whether we have legal footing in our decision to stop, question, and/or search a suspect. We will then have the opportunity to debrief with our instructors and classmates to ensure we were acting appropriately.

It may also demonstrate to us the reality that peace officers do sometimes inadvertently make mistakes. This will be a safe environment in which to assess and discuss our actions and then to make any adjustments necessary before we get out on patrol.

Range 5

Our final day at the range as a group! Check that off the list.

We began the morning with a cold qual. That meant doing a full qualification course without any practice time first. I scored a bit above 88%, which I was not particularly pleased about. I’ll come back to that later.

The rest of the day included a number of new, fun courses of fire. Many of these included shooting at steel so we could hear the satisfying ping of our rounds hitting the target.

Through the use of time constraints and difficult courses of fire, our instructors try to create situations that will increase our level of stress. The goal is to prepare us to shoot accurately in life and death situations. While it’s difficult to create situations as stressful as a real life officer-involved shooting, they do a good job of preparing us.

At one point, half of us were instructed to run out of the range pit, around a corner, reach a Beaverton Police Department van in the parking lot, and come back. This led to increased heart and breathing rates and shaky hands. We lined up at the 15-yard line and attempted to hit one of two hostage takers on a target, without injuring the light gray hostage in the foreground.

Group two took their turn and then group one began the same run again. This time, we were told to complete 10 pushups (on gravel, mind you) upon returning from the jog and before taking our shot. Eventually, group one did a third run and returned for a final shot at the hostage takers.

My first hostage taker shot on the left
This gave us a taste of how challenging it can be to take a distance shot when your heart is racing and you are breathing hard. I found I needed to consciously calm myself and slow my breathing while I took my shot. I landed one shot on each of the two hostage takers and one shot just to the right of one. I successfully avoided hitting the hostage.

One of my favorite activities of the day was referred to as “Rolling Thunder.” Seven candidates stand on the ten-yard line in front of five, evenly-placed steel targets. Shooter one shoots target one, then shooter two shoots target one, and so on. After the last candidate successfully hits target one, shooter one begins again, this time shooting target one and then target two. Shooter two shoots target one and then target two, and so on.

This continues until it’s time for shooter one to hit all five targets consecutively. Every other shooter on the line follows suit. The goal of this exercise is to shoot accurately, be aware of your surroundings, manage reloads, and to communicate. When done correctly, it sounds like one long rumble of rolling thunder as you hear the rhythmic clang of rounds hitting steel for the entire time the shooters are active.

We did a number of competitions, too. We alternated shooting solo, with partners, and in teams. As much fun as it is to excel in these rivalries, it is also fantastic to see your classmates performing well and everyone cheering for one another. You didn’t hear it here, but we did have a candidate beat an instructor (whose name I won’t dare mention) during a one-on-one competition. The instructor evened the score in a rematch.

Time to collect brass!
Prone shooting, or lying on the ground on one’s stomach and firing, was previously discussed, but we hadn’t yet gotten the chance to try it. We moved all the way out to the 50-yard line and half of us safely went down to the ground with our pistols drawn. It took a little maneuvering to figure out what position would be most comfortable and stable, but nearly all of us hit steel on our very first try.

How could I have forgotten to mention brassing ammo until now? At the close of each range session the candidates removed their duty belts and got to work picking up the hundreds of brass shell casings we left littered on the ground. In addition to this being pretty decent exercise, it was a nice chance to slow down and come back together at the end of a long day. I think I may actually miss collecting brass with my team.


Honestly, I think I went into Saturday’s class with a less than ideal mindset. I felt tired from my week, sore from an injury, and ready for the weekend to really start on Saturday evening. My performance in the cold qual revealed this.

My subpar qualification score then impacted how I continued to shoot. Knowing I hadn’t done as well as I wanted distracted me from focusing on fundamentals like steady trigger press and ensuring my magazine was properly seated in my pistol.

It took going to lunch and having some of my incredible classmates give me pep talks to get me back on track. Everyone has good and bad days, and it is best to keep a focused mindset and an optimistic outlook. Knowing others support you makes this much easier.

This coming week will consist of three high-intensity, likely stressful classes. Now is the time to study, develop a good, prepared attitude, and get excited about the challenges we will learn to overcome. I can’t wait to report back next week!

No comments:

Post a Comment